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Lip-syncing social network Musical.ly is getting into original content, thanks to new deals with Viacom, NBCU and Hearst, which will bring short-form video series to the app. However, unlike the original videos found on Snapchat – an app that’s often the next step up for the tween-age Musical.ly audience – these shows are designed to be interactive. That is, the shows… Read More
Social – TechCrunch
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What is semantic search? Broadly speaking, it’s a term that refers to a move towards more accurate search results by using various methods to better understand the intent and context behind a search.
Or as Alexis Sanders very eloquently explained it on the Moz Blog,
“The word “semantic” refers to the meaning or essence of something. Applied to search, “semantics” essentially relates to the study of words and their logic. Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding a searcher’s intent through contextual meaning. […] Semantic search brings about an enhanced understanding of searcher intent, the ability to extract answers, and delivers more personalized results.”
Google is constantly making tweaks and changes to its documentation and features linked to semantic search. Many of these involve things like structured data and Schema.org, rich results, Knowledge Graph and so on, and the vast majority go unannounced and unnoticed – even though they can make a significant difference to the way we interact with search.
But there are some eagle-eyed members of the search community who keep tabs on changes to semantic search, and let the rest of us know what’s up. To aid in those efforts, I’m rounding up five recent important changes to semantic search on Google that you might not have noticed.
100% of the credit for these observations goes to the Semantic Search Marketing Google+ group (and specifically its founder Aaron Bradley), which is my source for all the latest news and updates on semantic search. If you want to keep in the loop, I highly recommend joining.
Videos and recipes are now accessible via image search
Earlier this week, Google made a telling addition to its documentation for videos, specifying that video rich results will now display in image search on mobile devices, “providing users with useful information about your video.”
A mobile image search for a phrase like “Daily Show Youtube” (okay, that one’s probably not going to happen organically, but I wanted to make the feature work) will fetch video thumbnails in among the grid of regular image results, which when selected, unfold into something like this:
You then need to select “Watch” or the title of the video to be taken to the video itself. (Selecting the image will only bring up the image in fullscreen and won’t redirect you to the video). So far, video rich results from YouTube and Wistia have been spotted in image search.
Google’s documentation for recipes also now features a similar addition: “Rich results can also appear in image search on mobile devices, providing users with useful information about your recipe.” So now you can do more than just stare at a mouthwatering picture of a lasagna in image search – you might be able to find out how it’s made.
Google’s documentation gives instructions on how to mark up your videos and recipes correctly, so that you can make sure your content gets pulled through into image search.
Rich cards are no more
RIP, rich cards. The term introduced by Google in May 2016 to describe the, well, card-style rich results that appear for specific searches have now been removed from Google Developers.
As identified by Aaron Bradley, Google has made changes to its ‘Mark Up Your Content Items’ on Google Developers to remove reference to “rich cards”. In most places, these have been changed to refer to “rich results”, the family of results which includes things like rich cards, rich snippets and featured snippets.
There’s no information as to why Google decided to retire the term; I think it’s usefully descriptive, but maybe Google decided there was no point making an arbitrary distinction between a “card” and a “non-card” rich result.
It may also have been aiming to slim down the number of similar-sounding terms it uses to describe search results with the addition of “enriched search results” to the mix – more on that later.
Google launches structured data-powered job postings in search results
Google has added another item to the list of things that will trigger a rich result in search: job postings.
This change was prefigured by the addition of a Jobs tab to Google’s ‘Early Access and partner-only features’ page, which is another good place to keep an eye out for upcoming developments in search.
— Aaron Bradley (@aaranged) February 9, 2017
Google also hinted at the addition during this year’s Google I/O, when it announced the launch of a new initiative called ‘Google for Jobs’. In a lengthy blog post published on the first day of the conference, Google CEO Sundar Pichai explained the advent of Google for Jobs as forming part of Google’s overall efforts towards “democratizing access to information and surfacing new opportunities”, tying it in with Google’s advances in AI and machine learning.
“For example, almost half of U.S. employers say they still have issues filling open positions. Meanwhile, job seekers often don’t know there’s a job opening just around the corner from them, because the nature of job posts—high turnover, low traffic, inconsistency in job titles—have made them hard for search engines to classify. Through a new initiative, Google for Jobs, we hope to connect companies with potential employees, and help job seekers find new opportunities.”
The new feature, which is U.S.-only for the time being, is being presented as an “enriched search experience”, which is another one of Google’s interesting new additions to semantic search that I’ve explored in full below.
And in a neat tie-in, reviews of employers are now due to be added in schema.org 3.3, including both individual text reviews and aggregate ratings of organizations in their role as employer.
Google introduces new “enriched search results”
Move over rich results – Google’s got an even better experience now. Introducing “enriched search results”, a “more interactive and enhanced class of rich results” being made available across Google.
How long have enriched search results been around? SEO By the Sea blogged about a Google patent for enriched search results as far back as 2014, and followed up with a post in 2015 exploring ‘enriched resources’ in more detail.
However, in the 2014 post Bill Slawski specifically identifies things like airline flights, weather inquiries and sports scores as triggering an enriched result, whereas in its Search Console Help topic on enriched search results, Google specifies that this experience is linked to job postings, recipes and events only.
According to Google:
“Enriched search results often include an immersive popup experience or other advanced interaction feature.”
Google also specifies that “Enriched search enables the user to search across the various properties of a structured data item; for instance, a user might search for chicken soup recipes under 200 calories, or recipes that take less than 1 hour of preparation time.”
Judging by this quote, enriched search results are a continuation of Google’s overall strategy to achieve two things: interpret and respond to more in-depth search queries, and make the SERP more of a one-stop-shop for anything that a searcher could need.
We’ve seen Google increasingly add interactive features to the SERP like new types of rich result, and Google Posts, while also improving its ability to interpret user intent and search context. (Which, as we established earlier, is the goal of semantic search). So in the recipe example given above, a user would be able to search for chicken soup recipes with under 200 calories, then view and follow the recipe in a pop-up, all without needing to click through to a recipe website.
Google makes a whole host of changes to its structured data developer guides
Finally, Google has made a wide-ranging set of changes to its structured data developer guides. I recommend reading Aaron Bradley’s post to Semantic Search Marketing for full details, but here are some highlights:
- Guides are now classified as covering the following topics: structured data, AMP, mobile friendly design
- Structured data has a new definition: it is now defined by Google as “a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content.” The old definition called it “a text-based organization of data that is included in a file and served from the web.” This one definitely seems a little clearer.
- Twice as many items now listed under “Technical guidelines”, including an explanation of what to do about duplicate content
- There is now less emphasis on the Structured Data Testing Tool, and more on post-publication analysis and testing – perhaps Google is trying to get users to do more of their own work on structured data markup, rather than relying on Google’s tool?
- All content types are now eligible to appear in a carousel.
Good morning, San Francisco! As the city starts to wake up, my team and I are gearing up to welcome over a thousand marketers from around the world to Google Marketing Next, our annual event where we unveil the latest innovations for ads, analytics and DoubleClick.
A big theme you’ll hear about today is machine learning. This technology is critical to helping marketers analyze countless signals in real time and reach consumers with more useful ads at the right moments. Machine learning is also key to measuring the consumer journeys that now span multiple devices and channels across both the digital and physical worlds.
It’s a growing and important trend for marketers today, and will continue to shape how you build for success in the future.
Below is a sneak preview of a few of the announcements I’ll be making. There are many more that I can’t wait to share with you. Be sure to tune in at 9:00 a.m. PT/12:00 p.m. ET.
Hello Google Attribution, goodbye last-click
Today, we’re announcing Google Attribution, a new product to answer the question that has challenged marketers for ages, “Is my marketing working?” For the first time, Google Attribution makes it possible for every marketer to measure the impact of their marketing across devices and across channels — all in one place, and at no additional cost.
With today’s complex customer journey, your business might have a dozen interactions with a single person – across display, video, search, social, and on your site or app. And all these moments take place on multiple devices, making them even harder to measure.
Marketers have been trying to make attribution work for years, but existing solutions just don’t cut it. Most attribution tools:
- Are hard to set up
- Lose track of the customer journey when people move between devices
- Aren’t integrated with ad tools, making it difficult to take action
As a result, many marketers are stuck using last-click attribution, which misses the impact of most marketing touchpoints. With Google Attribution, we’ll help you understand how all of your marketing efforts work together and deliver the insights you need to make them work better.
Here’s how it works:
Integrations with AdWords, Google Analytics and DoubleClick Search make it easy to bring together data from all your marketing channels. The end result is a complete view of your performance.
Google Attribution also makes it easy to switch to data-driven attribution. Data-driven attribution uses machine learning to determine how much credit to assign to each step in the consumer journey — from the first time they engage with your brand for early research down to the final click before purchase. It analyzes your account’s unique conversion patterns, comparing the paths of customers who convert to those who don’t, so you get results that accurately represent your business.
Finally, you can take fast action to optimize your ads with Google Attribution because it integrates with ads tools like AdWords and DoubleClick Search. The results are immediately available for reporting, updating bids or moving budget between channels.
|“Given today’s multi-device landscape, cross-channel measurement and attribution is indispensable for HelloFresh to have a 360º panorama of our customer journey and gives us the best data to make the best decisions.” – Karl Villanueva, Head of Paid Search & Display|
Google Attribution is now in beta and will roll out to more advertisers over the coming months.
Mobile-local innovations drive more consumers to stores
Mobile has blurred the line between the digital and physical worlds. While most purchases still happen in-store, people are increasingly turning to their smartphones to do research beforehand — especially on Google.com and Google Maps.
To help consumers decide where to go, marketers are using innovations like Promoted Places and local inventory ads to showcase special offers and what’s in-stock at nearby stores. Now, you can also make it easy for them to find a store from your YouTube video ads using location extensions.
We introduced store visits measurement back in 2014 to help marketers gain more insight about consumer journeys that start online and end in a store. In under three years, advertisers globally have measured over 5 billion store visits using AdWords.
Only Google has the advanced machine learning and mapping technology to help you accurately measure store visits at scale and use these insights to deliver better local ad experiences. Our recent upgrade to deep learning models enables us to train on larger data sets and measure more store visits in challenging scenarios with greater confidence. This includes visits that happen in multi-story malls or dense cities like Tokyo, Japan and São Paulo, Brazil where many business locations are situated close together. Store visits measurement is already available for Search, Shopping and Display campaigns. And soon this technology will be available for YouTube TrueView campaigns to help you measure the impact of video ads on foot traffic to your stores.
Still, measuring store visits is just one part of the equation. You also need insights into how your online ads drive sales for your business. You need to know: are my online ads ringing my cash register? In the coming months, we’ll be rolling out store sales measurement at the device and campaign levels. This will allow you to measure in-store revenue in addition to the store visits delivered by your Search and Shopping ads.
If you collect email information at the point of sale for your loyalty program, you can import store transactions directly into AdWords yourself or through a third-party data partner. And even if your business doesn’t have a large loyalty program, you can still measure store sales by taking advantage of Google’s third-party partnerships, which capture approximately 70% of credit and debit card transactions in the United States. There is no time-consuming setup or costly integrations required on your end. You also don’t need to share any customer information. After you opt in, we can automatically report on your store sales in AdWords.
Both solutions match transactions back to Google ads in a secure and privacy-safe way, and only report on aggregated and anonymized store sales to protect your customer data.
Virgin Holidays discovered that when it factors in store sales, its search campaigns generate double the profit compared to looking at online KPIs alone. A customer purchasing in-store after clicking on a search ad is also three times more profitable than an online conversion. Says James Libor, Performance Marketing and Technology Manager, “Store sales measurement gives us a more accurate view of the impact our digital investment has on in-store results, especially through mobile. This has empowered us to invest more budget in Search to better support this critical part of the consumer journey.”
Machine learning delivers more powerful audience insights to search ads
People are often searching with the intent to buy. That’s why we’re bringing in-market audiences to Search to help you reach users who are ready to purchase the products and services you offer. For example, if you’re a car dealership, you can increase your reach among users who have already searched for “SUVs with best gas mileage” and “spacious SUVs”. In-market audiences uses the power of machine learning to better understand purchase intent. It analyzes trillions of search queries and activity across millions of websites to help figure out when people are close to buying and surface ads that will be more relevant and interesting to them.
This is an important moment for marketers. The convergence of mobile, data and machine learning will unlock new opportunities for marketers — and I’m excited to be on this journey with all of you.
Please join us at 9:00 a.m. PT/12:00 p.m. ET to see the entire keynote at Google Marketing Next, and all the other innovations we’re planning to announce for ads, analytics and DoubleClick.
Opinion: The FCC Would Be Mistaken to Unravel Antitrust Protections
I had someone who was reading my previous entries in my Learning SEO series ask about using forums to learn SEO. I promised that I would write a post about the value of forums in learning SEO.
Back in 1998 I became a moderator of a couple of forums on small business and website promotion on Yahoo Groups. Those lead to me becoming a moderator at Cre8asiteforums, joining forum owner Kim Krause Berg along with a number of other moderators such as Ammon Johns and Jill Whalen.
Cre8asiteforums was (and still is) a tremendous place to talk about SEO and web design and usability and accessibility. One of my favorite individual forums on the site was one called The Website Hospital, where people would bring their site’s URL and concerns about it, and ask questions. That was were I learned a lot about auditing sites, and seeing what worked well on them, and what might need some help. This thread is a good introduction to it: Getting Started in the Website Hospital.
Here’s a thread I started in November of 2005 that was an interesting read, on SEO Myths.
Another forum that I have gotten a lot of value from over the years is one call Webmasterworld. Most of the members of this forum are practicing SEOs or siteowners, who enjoy sharing their experiences. It reminds me of a weather vane, in that people are often open with information about changes that they experience to rankings and traffic to their sites. You can see changes taking place on the Web from what they write.
Another place that can be informative about how search works is the Google Webmaster Help Forum. If you experience problems with a site, it is often a good place to search to see if anyone else has experienced something similar – it is possible that someone has, and the answers they received may help you as well.
There are other forums on the Web that focus upon SEO and Search. I’ve included the ones that I am most familiar with. There were some others that I participated on, that aren’t very active anymore. It doesn’t hurt to start off as a lurker, and learn about the customs and culture of a forum before you start participating in it. You may find some that you enjoy participating in very much.
When I started going to conferences and events after being involved in forums for a few years, I finally had a chance to meet in real life many people whom I had only met in discussions at forums. It was nice getting a chance to do so.
You can learn a lot through forums.
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Succeeding on mobile starts with getting the basics right. People choose brands that meet their needs instantly and seamlessly. That means no matter how great your site looks, if it loads slowly, users will leave and you’ll miss out.
The open source Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project launched 18 months ago to help make the web better with faster experiences. Since then, we’ve been expanding how we surface fast-loading AMP pages on Google Search — starting with the top stories carousel and extending to organic search listings.
Today we’re introducing two new ways to harness the speed of AMP to improve advertising performance. First, we’re launching a new AdWords beta that lets you use fast-loading AMP pages as the landing pages for your search ads. Second, we’re speeding up ads served across the Google Display Network by using the same technology that makes AMP pages so fast.
Improving campaign ROI with lightning-fast AMP landing pages
We’ve said before that the median page load time for an AMP page from Google Search is under one second. If that wasn’t already fast enough, last week we announced that these pages are now twice as fast. No wonder AMP has been so widely adopted – more than 2 billion AMP pages have been published from 900,000 domains. Advertisers like Johnson & Johnson, Toll Brothers and eBay have already seen increased engagement with their brand by directing people to AMP pages from organic search results.
The new AdWords beta brings the performance benefits of faster mobile pages to search campaigns. Now, when advertisers link their search ads to AMP landing pages, consumers will get the fast mobile web experiences they’ve come to expect from AMP pages on Google Search. If you’re interested in participating in the beta, sign up here.
“We understand the importance of speed in delivering effective advertising campaigns. That is why we’re incredibly excited to apply the speed of AMP to our paid campaigns in AdWords,” says Aaron Cocks, Online Marketing Optimization Manager at Toll Brothers
“Johnson & Johnson has seen great results in testing AMP with our product information pages. For specific pages, we’ve seen page speeds improve by 10x and engagement rates improve by 20%. J&J is looking forward to expanding our application of AMP, ” says Paul Ortmayer, Head of Digital Analytics – EMEA, Johnson & Johnson
Ensuring display ads are seen with AMP
When ads load fast, people are more likely to see them. That means media budgets work more effectively and messaging strategies realize their full potential. Fast-loading ads also create better experiences for users.
To make ad experiences on the web a lot better and faster, the AMP Project launched The AMP Ads Initiative last year. The Initiative applies the technology powering fast-loading AMP pages to ads.
As of today, a significant number of ads shown on AMP pages across the Google Display Network are automatically converted and served in the new AMP ad format. We’ve found these ads load up to 5 seconds faster than regular ads even though the creative looks exactly the same. Ultimately, this ensures that your messages are actually seen by your intended audience and that the experience users have with your brand is seamless.
Speed matters. To meet the needs of today’s customers, you have to be fast. Bringing the speed and performance of AMP to advertising will help you deliver more effective campaigns that keep up with accelerating consumer expectations.
Posted by Jerry Dischler, Vice President, Product Management
On this week’s episode of the ‘Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy’ podcast the creators of the science fiction show look back on its legacy.
One, it is the second largest contributor to webpage weight, behind images, thereby increasing download time; and two, once downloaded, the browser then needs to run the script, which can delay the downloading/rendering of other (perhaps more important) assets on the page.
Scripts perform numerous functions on webpages such as loading ads, A/B testing, tag management (personalizing the page) or displaying an inline video player.
Over the last five years, the total weight of pages sent to mobile devices has quadrupled to 2.2MB. Size matters because, in general, the more data that is sent over a mobile, or fixed, network the longer a page will take to load. More data, more seconds staring at an empty mobile screen.
This suggests that images – which tend to take up more of the total kilobytes (KB) or megabytes (MB) of each page – are the main culprit. But this is not always the case.
“Scripts are usually a (bigger) issue because of the time it takes to actually execute the script in addition to the download size, while images really only matter because of the download size. With mobile devices for example, it can take several seconds to run a script even after it has been downloaded.”
“The problems are often compounded where the script is referenced in the page. The content after a ‘blocking’ script (as opposed to an async script) doesn’t exist, as far as the browser is concerned, until after the script has been downloaded and executed. When, as is commonly the case, scripts are put at the beginning of the page this means that the page will be completely blank until the scripts have downloaded and executed.”
If you have tested your webpages using Google PageSpeed Insights (N.B. you should regularly test your mobile webpages using tools such as WebPageTest and PageSpeed Insights), chances are you have seen the following warning:
! Should Fix:
Your page has 8 blocking script resources and 7 blocking CSS resources. This causes a delay in rendering your page.
None of the above-the-fold content on your page could be rendered without waiting for the following resources to load. Try to defer or asynchronously load blocking resources, or inline the critical portions of those resources directly in the HTML.
The text and image above is from a Mobile PageSpeed Insights test on BBC.com conducted in February 2017.
Note “above the fold” refers only to the part of the webpage which is visible on a mobile device, without scrolling, Google is not analyzing scripts on the rest of the page.
- BBC.com PageSpeed test (8 blocking scripts; 7 blocking CSS resources)
- NYTimes.com PageSpeed test (0 blocking scripts)
- ESPN.com PageSpeed test (2 blocking scripts; 3 blocking CSS resources)
- CNN.com PageSpeed test (6 blocking scripts; 2 blocking CSS resources)
This is clearly illustrated in the graph below from HTTP Archive. HTTP Archive tests the top 1 million sites several times every month using data from WebPageTest, and publishes trends and stats that are essential benchmarking for the performance of your site.
The image below compares the breakdown by content type for the average site with BBC.com tested by HTTP Archive (15 February 2017):
- The first thing to note is how impressively small the BBC page size is: 609KB v 2225KB.
- The second thing to note is how small the combined size of the BBC images: 70KB v 1501KB.
- The third thing to note is how proportionally large the scripts are: 458KB or 75.2% of total page size.
- The fourth thing to note (not shown in the charts below) is that 39 (44.3%) of the BBC’s total 88 requests are scripts.
- BBC.com tested by HTTP Archive: Scripts 458KB (75.2%) of 609KB of total data; 39 JS requests (44.3%) of 167 88 total requests.
- NYTimes.com HTTP Archive test: Scripts 1511KB (51%) of 2953KB of total data; 73 JS requests (43.7%) of 167 total requests. (N.B. NY Times has a dedicated mobile site at mobile.nytimes.com, which is not listed by HTTP Archive, which may deliver different results.)
- ESPN.com HTTP Archive test: Scripts 1183KB (65.7%) of 1802KB of total data; 50 JS requests (47.2%) of 106 total requests.
- CNN.com HTTP Archive test: Scripts 1484KB (68%) of 2182KB of total data; 67 JS requests (31.9%) of 210 total requests.
What is the effect on mobile page speed?
So does it follow that the slim-line BBC site would load much faster than all its rivals?
Err, no. On 15 February 2017, HTTP Archive recorded the following load times:
So, the BBC is faster loading on a mobile device than CNN and the New York Times, but considerably slower than the (larger) ESPN.
This is what the two sites look like on a mobile device. (The filmstrip is one of WebPageTest’s most visually compelling features, easily understood by any non-techie). Each frame represents 1 second. When the HTTP Archive test took place, for 9 seconds BBC.com mobile visitors saw nothing, while for 4 seconds ESPN visitors saw nothing.
There could be many reasons why one website might be faster than another, such as server response times, use of content delivery networks (CDN), the impact of ad networks, inclusion of third-party data (common on news sites), or the time and place of the test (in this case California, USA).
Alex Painter, Web Performance Consultant at NCC Group:
- Inline scripts also stop the page build, but as they are included in the HTML, they do not need to be individually downloaded. However too large or too many inline scripts will bloat and delay the initial download of HTML file.
Are blocking scripts ever justified?
“If the site functionality relies on the code, then it needs to be run as a blocking script so that it is ready before the page needs it. A very common case for this is tag managers and A/B testing platforms where the code will change the page. In other cases blocking is used when it will be more work to load the functionality asynchronously.”
How big is too big? How many requests is too many?
This will always be a balancing act.
“Since the browser will only load six requests at a time for each domain, if you have more than that it needs to request the rest after the first ones have completed, leading to longer times from the request/response delays.
For more on how to optimize the speed of your mobile site, check out our previous three-part series:
- How to optimize your mobile site speed: Testing for issues
- How to reduce the impact of images on your mobile site speed
- How to optimize images for mobile: Implementing light, responsive, correctly-formatted images
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